Buffs Down Huskers
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — A fast start and a strong fourth-quarter performance by the Colorado women's basketball team helped propel the Buffaloes into the quarterfinals of the WNIT on Saturday. Freshman Frida Formann scored a team-high 18 points, helping CU to a 75-71 win over old-time rival Nebraska.
Colorado (12-10) had four players score in double figures. Charlotte Whittaker matched her career-high with 15 points, nine coming in the second half. She also snagged a season-best seven rebounds. Junior Peanut Tuitele put in 14 points for the second consecutive night and led CU with eight rebounds, going along with a career-high six assists. Junior Lesila Finau scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Buffs put away the Huskers.
The Buffs led by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter. Things got interesting down the stretch with the Huskers cutting the CU lead down to three with just over a minute left. Colorado went 9-for-14 from the free-throw line, including 6-for-8 in the final 50 seconds.
"We certainly made it interesting down the stretch," head coach JR Payne said in relief. "I told the team that they made a lot of people in Boulder very happy down the stretch of the game because I know this game means a lot to a lot of Buffs, old and young. Everybody wants to beat Nebraska so I'm really happy and proud of our team today."
Nebraska (13-13) had five players in double figures, led by Sam Haiby's 20-point effort.
Colorado will next play on Monday, Mar. 22, facing the winner of Mississippi and Tulane at 6 p.m. MT.
"We will be ready, that's for sure," Payne added. "The coaches will sit around and watch the next game. Our team really just needs to get in some ice baths or some Normatecs and try to rest as much as humanly possible before Monday because it'll be a tough opponent no matter who it is."
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Huskers scored the first basket of the game, but Colorado took a 7-5 lead off Formann's first 3-pointer of the contest and held the lead the rest of the first half. Colorado shot 56.3 percent from the floor in the opening quarter and had a 12-2 run that gave the Buffs a 22-12 lead.
Nebraska closed the first quarter with a 5-0 run to slim the CU advantage down to 22-17 at the end of the first quarter. Formann and Tuitele each totaled five points in the first for Colorado.
The Huskers' run continued into the second quarter, getting within three points at the start, 22-19. A pair of Tayanna Jones free throws put an end to the NU run, but the Buffs struggled from the field in the second quarter, going 0-for-5 to start. The CU slump allowed Nebraska to get back to within one, 24-23.
More free-throws from Tuitele pushed the CU lead back to 26-23 with 5:51 to go in the half. The game's next field goal didn't come until the 4:03 mark, with Whittaker, hitting a long jumper to push the Buffs' lead to 28-23. Whittaker went 2-for-2 down the stretch, with her second basket giving Colorado a seven-point lead, 30-23.
Nebraska used two deep 3-pointers from Mi'Cole Cayton and Annika Stewart to get back within two, 33-31, before the half. Jones added a free-throw in the final seconds for CU, taking a 34-31 lead into the locker room.
Formman opened the third quarter with a triple, giving CU a six-point lead right out of the gate. Then things became a game of runs.
Nebraska charged back with seven straight points to retake the lead, 38-37. Tuitele ended the NU run, hitting a jumper to give CU back the 39-37 lead, starting a 7-0 run for the Buffs. Formann sank her third 3 of the night to close the run, giving CU the 44-38 lead. The Huskers bounced back with a quick 4-0 run to close within two, 44-42, with four minutes to go in the quarter.
Whittaker got going late in the third backing down the defense to end the quarter, 50-47. She opened the fourth quarter with CU's first five points and Finau hit a 3 to put CU up 57-49 at the 8:19 mark. Tuitele added a layup off a Nebraska turnover to give CU a 10-0 run to put the Buffs up by double-digits, 59-49.
"Charlotte's just been incredible," Payne pointed out. "I just talked to the team about the sacrifices that she's made for her teammates this year. Today was just the perfect example of when she was needed, and her number was called she was completely ready. She did an incredible job."
The Colorado defense limited Nebraska's opportunities in the final quarter, holding the Huskers to just 2-for-7 in the first 7:30 of the period. The CU offense fed off the defense, increasing its lead to 11, 68-57, off Formman's fourth 3 of the game.
NU fought back to cut the CU lead to three, 69-66 with 1:05 to play. Finau drilled two free throws to push CU's lead back up to five, 71-66, with 50 seconds to go. Nebraska hit a desperation 3 with seven seconds to go, getting back within three, 74-71, but the Buffs closed with another Finau free throw to cap the night
TURNING POINT: Tuitele's basket with 6:52 to play in the third started Colorado's 7-0 run that would retake the lead for good. The Buffs got contributions from Aubrey Knight and Formann in the run. Nebraska cut the lead down to one on multiple occasions in the second half, but the 9-0 run finished off by Tuitele in the fourth gave CU back the double-digit lead (59-49), proving enough cushion to keep NU at bay.
KEY STATISTIC: The Buffs shot over 50 percent in both the first and fourth quarter on Saturday. Colorado opened 9-for-16, scoring 22 points and used a 7-for-12 effort to put up 25 points in the fourth quarter. The 22 first-quarter points matched a season-high in the opening quarter.
NOTES: The Buffs improved 16-6 all-time in the WNIT and 5-2 in games not in Boulder…it's the 42nd overall win against Nebraska (42-28)…Hollingshed fouled out in the fourth quarter with just three points…CU has hit 17 3-pointers in the first WNIT games…Formann has 59 3's on the season the most tied with Jenny Roulier (2000-01) and Amy Palmer (1994-95) for 14th on the single-season list…CU will either play Ole Miss or Tulane…The Buffs have never met Ole Miss before and are 2-1 all-time against Tulane (last, W, 62-52, 12/21/19).